In Hot Water

The Robertsons arrive in Savusavu and discover a new, fun way cook using hot springs.

log of del viento
Eleanor, Frances, and the Elas girls lowering potatoes into the water.Michael Robertson

I saw the steam rising from the beaches the morning we pulled into Savusavu. It’s odd to imagine now, but the steam rising from the beach didn’t strike me, as though steam rises from beaches everywhere. Maybe it’s a traveler’s phenomenon. Over the past few years, the daily onslaught of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells has perhaps dulled me.

Or maybe the steam just worked with the setting. After all, we were motoring up the lush creek, Nawi Island to port, palm-lined beach to starboard. I was steering through the field of moored cruising boats, hunting for town landmarks ashore. Except for the cruising boats, it looked for all the world like the steamy setting of a Vietnam movie.

Windy was standing ahead of me, looking over the dodger, “They have hot springs here, I read about them. Check out the steam coming from the beach.”

A short time later, we met a Swiss family aboard Elas, two girls our own girls’ age. They’d seen locals boiling clams on the beach and a plan was made to try their own hand at cooking. The girls rounded up a batch of eggs and potatoes and ventured ashore to lower them into the steaming pools.

I stayed aboard. Heavy rains were forecast and I was in the middle of a big saw-and-epoxy project to finally remedy a troubling leak below. And I was skeptical. I’ve been around hot springs. Maybe the water would be too hot to touch, but there was no way it was going to cook potatoes—and I’d be surprised if the eggs were more than poached.

log of del viento
Eleanor warming her feet in Savusavu.Michael Robertson

They were gone a few hours.

“Dad, it’s amazing, everything cooked. We made lunch on the beach!”

“Totally? I mean, were they like mashed potatoes?”

“Yes…no! Not like mashed potatoes, they were mashed potatoes—totally cooked inside.”

And I learned the eggs were indeed hardboiled.

The next day, our friends CB and Tawn on Palarran came alongside in their dinghy.

“The hot springs are awesome, we went last night.”

“Were they hot—I mean too hot, or tolerable?”

“Oh yeah, they’re hot, but the guy adds cold water to the tubs so that the temperature is perfect, and you can always add more.”

That night we hiked up the hill to the house of the enterprising guy who’d built concrete catchments, to which he diverted the hot spring that flowed through his yard. It was pricey (FJD$15 per person—about $30USD for the family), but the night was cool and drizzly, we had the pools to ourselves, and we stayed for hours. Windy and I realized as we soaked that it was our first time soaking in hot water since our time in the Canadian and Alaskan hot springs in 2013.

We’re far south of Savusavu now, but we’ve already made plans to return, early next month. I won’t look at the steaming beaches the same on our next arrival, and I’ll make it a point to join the family when they propose to cook lunch on the beach.